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September 26 • Ode to Santa Fe

Day 810

We bought a new car today. I am still unemployed, my wife’s income has been significantly curtailed due to forces beyond our control, and we just bought a new car.

Whether it was new or used, purchasing an automobile — not to mention a house or other major acquisition — has always kicked me into a few days or weeks of a combination of buyer’s remorse, economic stewardship guilt, and a period of depression in there somewhere. I’ve identified this pattern, watched it recur with predictability, and continued to wonder why it happened and whether it would happen the next time.

We’re about to find out.

This experience has already taken a different tone than any similar transaction in the past. My wife and I always did this together with varying degrees of influence exerted by one or the other. Wait, that’s not right. I did buy a Nissan Pulsar once on my own, a reward for getting a new job. Two months later, my issues were so strong that I took it back and traded it in for a Suzuki Samurai, so let’s not talk about that. Besides that one time, it’s always been a joint project.

There was that other time when I took a new job in a new city and bought a new house without my wife ever seeing even a picture of it. Except for that, it’s always been a joint thing with us.

Well, there was also a mobile home — our first home — which I bought before proposing, so that doesn’t really count, but I am picking up on a strange pattern here that I did not see before.

Let’s start over.

My wife was the one with certitude that it was time for a new car. Ours was several years old and beginning to have some mechanical issues, but it was serviceable so I was content to drive it into the ground. Did I mention being unemployed? But she picked out a nice one which played to my sense of coolness and contributed to me ‘going along’ with the idea.

In the past, me ‘going along’ usually meant I would withhold my enthusiasm so I could blame her if the deal went wrong or I just later regretted it, at least one of which was very likely. But not this time.

Somewhere during the test-driving and negotiating, it hit me that my wife was participating with me in a significant ‘investment,’ and it was going to take a multi-year mutual commitment to pay for it. That hit me emotionally. I think it was more of a realization than a new reality, but it humbled me to sign the papers with her that somehow reinforced her past promises that she was still in this relationship without reservations or back-up plans. We’re still married and still making deals about the future. It seems like a little thing, but it’s not; it’s a big thing.

Then the other shoe fell. As we’re waiting to take possession of our new anxiety-loaded SUV, the salesman comes back and says he messed up. It seems our car of choice had just rolled off the truck and had not yet been inspected or serviced, and all the guys that do that had gone home for the day. Looking at the schedule, it would be the day after tomorrow before it would be ready. He hoped that would be okay with us, and if it was, we just had to sign the final documents to complete the deal, then go home and try not to wreck our trade-in for two days. I said that would be fine, and we finished up the docs and came home.

That should be sending me down Regret Road at any time. Not only did I do something that always messes with my head and my self-image in very triggering ways, but I’m also not even getting the benefit of immediate gratification; I have to wait two days while wallowing in my remorse and… did I mention I’m still unemployed?

I’ll go out on a limb here and say something is different. My anxiety level is pretty low. My head is not acting like it belongs to an addict, and my wife and I are still smiling at each other. This is really strange.

Film at eleven.



I swear I'm gonna live forever

Heading back to Santa Fe

Got debts to pay in Santa Fe

It's judgement day in Santa Fe

–Bon Jovi, “Santa Fe"



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